Living With Hoarding Disorder


Hoarding disorder is an often misunderstood mental health condition that causes people to collect and keep large amounts of seemingly random items, that they store in no particular order.  They can fill baths, cover stairs, beds, tables, chairs, worktops even cookers with what most people would consider to be rubbish.  Often the items that they collect can have little or no monetary value, like magazines, newspapers, mail, empty bottles or carrier bags.

Hoarding doesn’t only just cause emotional and mental health concerns for the person hoarding, it can have a negative effect on the people that live with them.  It can be challenging coping with a hoarder as they don’t realise the impact it has on other people, or even believe they have a problem, or that it can make their environment an unsafe place to be. In extreme cases they will not only fill their house but can fill sheds, garages, vehicles, or even rent storage facilities to accommodate their belongings.

How to recognise if someone has hoarding disorder

There is a difference between someone who is a collector, as they usually collect things that are rare or have a monetary value.  They will store them in an organised manner, which is easily accessible, and whilst they may not use the items they collect, they will often be displayed so that they can be admired.

Hoarders tend to be impulsive, lack organisation and become stressed and anxious at the thought of giving items up.  They often feel ashamed of their homes and don’t like having visitors.

What causes a person to become a hoarder

It’s not fully understood what causes a person to start hoarding, but it tends to start in their early teens, and can be a symptom of other health conditions. Obsessive compulsive disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and severe depression can be associated with the condition.  Learning or physical disabilities or conditions like dementia can make it hard to either recognise what they need to keep and what can be thrown away.

Symptoms of hoarding disorder

·      Collecting or keeping excessive amounts of items with little or no monetary value in an unorganised manner when space is not available

·      Feel emotionally connected to items that remind them of happier times, people or animals they loved and feel comfort that they surround them

·      Are so attached to them that they refuse to let people touch or move them, becoming anxious if they try to throw them away as they don’t want to waste anything, even if it has no value

·      Have difficulty making decisions, are disorganised, procrastinate and avoid doing things

·      Struggle to manage everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning or running a household or finances

·      Have a poor relationship with their family and friends as they get anxious or resentful if they suggest getting rid of things as they’re convinced that they may need them in the future

When to seek help

If you belief someone you know has hoarding disorder then you should try and convince them to see the help of a mental health professional.  Ther are a variety of therapies including CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which can help them to identify negative thoughts and behaviours that trigger their need to hoard and teach then to resist the urge.  It will also teach them coping skills to make better decisions in the future.  Sadly if you believe that their hoarding is a threat to their, or someone else’s health or safety then you should contact the local authorities for help.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK).  For more free information click above link.